Monthly Archives: March 2024


As an historian, I was intrigued to receive a letter from the Wellfleet Historical Society that they planned to undertake an oral history project, to be converted and bound into text, in the Summer of 2023, to gather its fascinating history. I volunteered my services, one thing led to another, and in July I sat opposite the low key and lovely Robin Burns, one of the Directors of the WHS, receiving my instructions on their protocol on how to proceed. I submitted several names of folks I thought would be vital for the task, several having already refused to be interviewed for whatever reason. A nice challenge!

Let’s start off with the fact that Wellfleet’s history is quite singular. It was inhabited by native people when the Pilgrims first arrived in 1620. Soon white folks took over its site, and over the last four centuries Wellfleet has become famous for whaling, fishing, piracy, many ships foundering off the often-wild Atlantic shore, the natural beauty of its landscape, its flora and fauna, its ubiquitous oysters which are served in fine restaurants all over the world, commerce, tourism, and now as the second home of many noted figures in the arts and professions, including some Nobel Prize winners.

Part of the protocol was myself being interviewed. Soon Wellfleet resident, Beth Whitman’s slender form emerged from the foliage surrounding my house. My own 44-year history in Wellfleet was ably brought out by the well prepared and pleasant Beth.

The three who had refused were husband and wife artists, Jack Coughlin and Joan Hopkins Coughlin, owners of the Golden Cod Gallery for over fifty years, and each a highly respected and broadly appreciated artist whose works were always sought and sold. Another was Richard Rosenthal, the Wellfleet Police Chief for twenty years from 1990 to 2010. The fourth was the landscaper for me and many others, Jeremy Young, who was willing, once he could find time from his dual role as the Director of the long-established Holden Inn.

Acting upon my belief that everyone has a story to tell, and that with the correct approach, they will tell it, I approached my old friends, Joan and Jack, now, like me, facing old age.

Slowly they accepted my entreaties. Joan, whose ancestors were an important part of Wellfleet history over the last few centuries, spoke of them, her childhood in Jamaica, and her colorful and upbeat art, in her mild and warm manner.

Jack, famous here and in Europe, and shown in museums like the Met and MOMA in NYC, and galleries in DC, Philadelphia, and elsewhere, as well as several on the continent, answered my queries forthrightly. I sought to underscore a life which was devoted to his art exclusively from before he could walk, until now, when at 92, he is challenged to walk.

Jeremy like Jack, knew what he wanted to do from early on, starting his own business at 15, a business thriving today in his mid-thirties, with multiple employees, and a sterling reputation.

Chief Richard Rosenthal’s amazing story leaves one in awe as he unfolds it, shining a light on Wellfleet and NYC police history, Rich’s many books, his masterful photography, the vagaries of human nature, friendship, sincerity, forgiveness, and whatever else you might derive from this account of a man I describe as “Renaissance.”

A Summer I will never forget!

People, always people.